Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger…
In this text notice —
I. Those members of the Church at Antioch as CONSPICUOUS MEN. They were stars. Among the thousands connected with the Bible, only a few are named, so they must have been special noteworthy men: — "Barnabas," "Simeon, that was called Niger" — black. "Lucius" of Cyrene, an African settlement. Simeon was black. He might have been an African; and Lucius was for certain. "Manaen," brought up with Herod the tetrarch. It was the old custom to have a sort of adopted child as companion for young princes, thus forming what would seem a companionship for life. A man who had lived in court would be a fine man, but his living with Herod throws another light upon things. He was "brought up" in court — then he had heard John the Baptist thunder and lighten in his preaching. "Brought up" in court — then he knew John in prison. Was he one of John's disciples? "Brought up with Herod." Then he knew that woman, the wife of the steward, who ministered so to Jesus. "Brought up with Herod." Then he was at the crucifixion when Jesus was "set at nought," when on bended knees the cruel shout was raised, "Hail, King of the Jews." Probably that was the crisis that brought him out. Now, here we find him among the disciples, not with Herod, but his name written in the Lamb's book of life. He leaves the court and goes into the tents at Antioch, struck his sword, and is here a soldier of Jesus Christ. The Church of Christ is composed of wonderful variety.
II. We have a NEW SPEAKER — "The Holy Ghost." Who and what is the Holy Ghost? No one can answer. The Holy Ghost never intended that we should. The doctrine of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is a tremendous doctrine. We cannot draw a circle round infinity; we cannot even understand ourselves. How, then, can we understand God? We must leave the question, for it cannot be questioned. There are two very plain things —
1. That the Spirit is a person, not simply an influence.
2. Not only a person, but a Divine person.
III. We have an IMPORTANT COMMAND — "Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work," etc.
1. Here is a beginning — the first mission to the heathen. The Acts of the Apostles is a book of beginnings. We read of the first fear, first hope, first joy, first sermon, first prayer meeting, the first sinner converted, the first Christians, the first baptism, the first Lord's supper, and now the first instance, by order, of men set apart for the work of missions. There were no Christians in England, in Spain, in Italy then. Everything then had to begin. And the Holy Ghost said, "Now" is the time to begin.
2. Here is a wise choice. "Now, there were at Antioch in the Church prophets and teachers." So Barnabas and Saul were not called away till they could be spared. The two captains were not removed till the ship was officered. Note, they were the best men. Not inexperienced or young, but the kind the Holy Ghost requires to send out — the very Barnabas and the very Saul. The Church may spare Barnabas and Saul now.
3. Here are propitious circumstances. "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted." As they were going on in their ministry. It was a special meeting, because they were fasting. They wanted to know something, and as they were inquiring the Holy Ghost spake.
(1) The Holy Ghost requires that He Himself should call persons to the ministry before the Church calls them — "I have called them." We cannot make ministers or missionaries. When we call them, we only ratify the call of God.
(2) Those who go should be sent out by the act of the Church.
(3) Missionaries are separated men. Separate from home, separate from the refinement of life, separate from wealth, separate from those who have watched them grow into Christians, separate from old companions, separate from the elders of the Church, separate by the rolling sea, separate by the mountain, separate by the wilderness.
(4) "Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work," etc. This work is a work.
(G. Stanford, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.